Why Modi won’t be happy with the Financial Times’ list of the best books of 2021
EYE ON ENGLAND: Jyoti Basu’s granddaughter Mallika makes a different ‘curry’ in the UK
Posted 27.11.21, 02:02 AM
Narendra Modi will not be entirely delighted that Christophe Jaffrelot Modi’s India: Hindu Nationalism and the Rise of Ethnic Democracy was selected by Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Time, among his “Best books of 2021: Politics”. Rachman says, “Modi’s most comprehensive study of India to date offers a grim and ruthless view of the country’s leadership. Jaffrelot … argues that India has become an “ethnic democracy” in which Muslims and Christians are effectively second-class citizens. Modi’s Hindu nationalist project, he said, effectively emptied institutions that could have controlled the prime minister’s power, including the Supreme Court, the media and the electoral commission.
Rachman also chose that of Sathnam Sanghera Empireland: How Imperialism Shaped Modern Britain. Sanghera presents a two-part documentary on Channel 4, State of mind of the empire, which examines how his life has been affected by the legacy of colonialism. He reveals how, as a Sikh child growing up in Wolverhampton, he was regularly the victim of racist abuse. Now he faces abuse for pointing out the negative aspects of the Empire – seen by the right as an attempt to “nullify” England’s traditional values and culture.
Moreover, “The rise of Indian cancel culture” is the title of an anti-Modi play by Pratinav Anil, co-author with Jaffrelot of India’s first dictatorship: the emergency, 1975-1977. Using the past as a warning, Anil writes that “the cancellation of culture in India is on a whole different scale. Modi and his underlings withheld scholarships and prescribed “appropriate subjects” for doctoral dissertations, denied research visas to academics, and placed lecturers under surveillance … prohibited staff from writing for the popular press, dismissed critics of the government and hired unqualified but compliant people in vice – chanceries and directorates.
A whole curry
Jyoti Basu’s granddaughter, Mallika Basu, has made a name for herself in London as a food writer and consultant on cultural and diversity issues in the food industry. She grabbed the headlines recently because she took issue when celebrity chef Gizzi Erskine swept the cuisines of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka under the tote rubric of Indian “curry” . Their exchanges were picked up by national newspapers. Gizzi, who was opening her new restaurant, Love Café in Kent, told her 200,000 Instagram followers that to mark the occasion she was “celebrating classic curries from all over India.”
Mallika tells me, “Someone like me has bees in their hat about cultural appropriation and cultural insensitivity. Gizzi corrected her mistakes but Mallika says she received a “pretty sarcastic response”. “The problem is when the word ‘curry’ is used as a reductive term to describe all of a nation’s cuisine,” protests Mallika. “Indian cuisine is not curry. These two things should not be used interchangeably. I think unfortunately what’s going on here is that, first, the term has been misused to describe Indian food … second, we don’t give enough homage to what curry really is. Because curry in Great Britain is curry of British origin. He is essentially the creative genius of British Bangladeshis. And it is a very delicious kind of food, but Indian cuisine is not.
His grandfather, “a big foodie,” “loved fish curries. But I remember his big thing was a really mild meat curry where the mangsho falls from the bone. He also liked European cuisine. You could make him a nice pastry or pasta.
As a devoted son, Dinesh Dhamija, a well-known businessman in Britain, takes some copies of his highly entertaining memoirs for his mother, who lives in Delhi and turned 94 last month. Dhamija, the son of an Indian diplomat, rose to fame and fortune creating the UK’s first online travel agency so people could do what we now take for granted: book flights and vacations in the comfort of his living room. This is why his memoir, officially published on November 30 by Austin Macauley, is called To book! How Dinesh Dhamija built and sold Ebookers online travel agencies for £ 247million.
It not only lists the top 10 golf courses in the UK and the world, but also its ‘Top 10 Indian business leaders’, among which it includes NR Narayana Murthy (Infosys); Lakshmi Mittal (ArcelorMittal); Ratan Tata (Tata Group); Yusuf Hamied (Cipla); Mukesh Ambani (Reliance Industries); and Anil Agarwal (Vedanta Resources). When Dhamija went to Cambridge, his father advised him not to let studies get in the way of his tennis, telling his son: “You have to win Wimbledon.
Claudia Webbe, who replaced Keith Vaz after turning 32 as Labor MP for Leicester East, tweeted: “The victory of Indian farmers. Your cause was just and your moral authority shines brightly. Your protest is an example to the world of how injustice must be overcome. “
But Webbe’s future in Parliament does not look bright. She was kicked out of the Labor Party after being given a 10-week suspended sentence for two years after threatening another woman, who had known her partner, with “acid.” She appealed against her conviction.
Actor Raj Ghatak stars in the West End stage adaptation of Booker Prize-winning novel by Yann Martel, Pi’s life, which I can’t wait to see. He talks about Pi Patel’s 227-day journey across stormy oceans in a small boat with Richard Parker, a fierce Royal Bengal tiger. Raj tells me that a new generation of British Asians wanted to be an actor after seeing him in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Bombay dreams, in 2002 – “it’s very humiliating”.